Apr 2, 2011 11:37pm
Re: Oh Bluedevil???? Where are you?????
April 1, 2011
As UConn Plays On, Once-Prized Recruit Can Only Watch
By PETE THAMEL and ZACH HILLESLAND
The former University of Connecticut basketball recruit Nate Miles is effectively homeless. He moves from friend’s couch to friend’s couch, still recovering from a violent assault that left him with a stab wound and a punctured lung and a monthlong stay in the hospital.
Miles, 23, has obligations to go with his troubles, two sons from different mothers, and no great confidence in where his next meal is coming from. A life playing basketball, the sport he once planned to make a grand career of, seems unlikely. He was fired from the Premiere Basketball League’s Dayton, Ohio, team, and he now says he cannot afford to play at a local recreation center because he lacks the $10 fee.
While Connecticut plays in the Final Four on Saturday in Houston, led by Miles’s former campus roommate, Kemba Walker, he is in his hometown, Toledo, a not unfamiliar casualty of what many regard as the cynical and broken system of big-time college recruiting.
“I don’t feel like it’s fair, but it’s life; life isn’t fair,” Miles said.
In two interviews in Toledo, Miles offered a window into major college sports. He said he went to six high schools in five years before heading to Connecticut. At one point in high school, he said, he got $250 every three days from an N.B.A. agent that he said a former UConn assistant coach introduced him to. He said he received improper help on at least two of the standardized tests he took to qualify academically to play in college, but for all that he never played a game for Connecticut, or any other Division I university.
Connecticut and its longtime coach, Jim Calhoun, have already been punished for a variety of sins in their recruitment of Miles. The N.C.A.A. has limited the number of scholarships Connecticut can award, has placed its basketball program on probation and suspended Calhoun for three games next season.
But the N.C.A.A., which issued its punishments in February and declared its investigation over, never interviewed Miles, who refused to take part in the investigation. He now says he is ready to tell the full story of his journey from cherished prospect to Connecticut recruit to leading man in a significant university scandal to homeless young father.
“I’d probably be open to talk to them, and, you know, get some things straight,” Miles said.
The N.C.A.A. is taking Miles seriously; a representative of the organization went to his grandmother’s house on Friday.
Earlier, Stacey Osburn, a spokeswoman for the N.C.A.A., said of the initial investigation into Miles’s recruitment: “In addition to attempting to directly contact Nate Miles, the N.C.A.A. enforcement staff reached out to four people associated with him through phone, in-person outreach, e-mail and other modes, including social media. During these efforts, it was made clear Nate was not going to talk to us. If new information comes to light, the next step is to assess its credibility and determine if further steps are needed.”
Miles, for many, is less than a fully credible character. He was kicked out of UConn before playing a game, and well before the scandal involving his recruitment became public. He said, after interviews with The New York Times, that he would demand to be paid for any other media interviews. And Miles’s admissions about taking cash from an agent conflict with a sworn statement he gave the N.C.A.A.
UConn officials said they have cooperated with the N.C.A.A. and were abiding by its judgments and punishments. They would not respond to specific questions about Miles’s current account.
Miles’s version of his recruitment, and his involvement with the N.B.A. agent Josh Nochimson, a former UConn team manager, is different than the one Calhoun gave in his 63-page response to the N.C.A.A.
When read a series of Calhoun’s statements to the N.C.A.A., including whether Calhoun and the Connecticut assistant Tom Moore warned Miles not to take gifts from Nochimson, Miles responded “lie” after each of them. That included whether Calhoun called Miles in March 2007 to caution Miles about Nochimson. “Lie,” Miles said.
Miles said Calhoun raised the subject of Nochimson with him only once, a few weeks after arriving at Connecticut and after Miles had received thousands of dollars worth of extra benefits. “He told me, like, he didn’t want me dealing with him anymore,” Miles said.
When asked if Calhoun was aware that Nochimson provided cash, clothes and food, and had paid for toe surgery for Miles, Miles said, “He knew.”
Connecticut officials rebutted that account in a statement Friday: “Coach Calhoun denies any claim that he knew that Nate Miles was receiving impermissible benefits. Moreover, Mr. Miles submitted a signed statement to the N.C.A.A. last year that contradicts his current story. Coach Calhoun cooperated fully with the N.C.A.A.’s investigation and considers this matter closed.”
The fallout over Miles’s recruitment is striking for many reasons, not the least of which is he never made it to a practice. He was thrown out of the university in fall 2008 after violating a restraining order.
Miles went on to junior college, but his collegiate career essentially ended in March 2009 when a Yahoo Sports investigation detailed his taking of gifts from Nochimson and the hundreds of impermissible phone calls and text messages from Connecticut staff members during his recruitment as a high school player. A Connecticut assistant coach, Pat Sellers, and director of basketball operations, Beau Archibald, resigned in the wake of the scandal.
Miles said he never would have met Nochimson if Moore, the former Connecticut assistant coach, had not introduced them. Miles said that Moore approached him after a prep school game in Illinois and physically put Miles on the phone with Nochimson. Calhoun’s statement to the N.C.A.A., which was in part based on interviews with Moore, stated, “Moore did not make the introduction.”
Miles said Moore introduced him to Nochimson because Miles had little support from his parents or access to money.
“He knew my home life, and as far as financially having somebody there, you know, to help me, so he put me on with Josh,” Miles said. “He called Josh right there and put me on the phone with him and everything, had me talking to him.”
Miles said that after he committed to play at Connecticut, which took place eight days after Moore introduced him to Nochimson, he began receiving gifts from Nochimson, shoes and clothes, and $250 every three days. “Once I committed and was really part of the family, he started to come, and help me out,” Miles said of Nochimson.
Moore, now the coach at Quinnipiac University, declined to comment in a telephone interview Thursday night. “I should probably just say no comment to anything,” he said.
Miles said he was not bitter toward Connecticut and acknowledged his mistakes, and his own participation in banned behavior. He said he appreciated Calhoun and Connecticut for the extraordinary efforts they made in recruiting him.
Calhoun told reporters after Miles had agreed to play for him that he had “as much basketball ability” as anyone he had ever recruited, a high compliment for a program that produced N.B.A. stars like Ray Allen, Rudy Gay and Emeka Okafor. In the N.C.A.A.’s report, UConn’s athletic director, Jeff Hathaway, said it was the “most intense” he’d seen Calhoun recruit a player.
“UConn was the only school willing to do what it took to get me cleared and eligible to play college basketball,” Miles said. “A lot of other schools were recruiting me, and wanting me just as bad as they were, but they weren’t willing to do the extra, to take the extra steps to get me cleared and eligible as Coach Calhoun and UConn.”
Miles’s jagged journey began in Toledo, with an alcoholic mother and a father who Miles said played basketball, hustled and didn’t do much else.
“I didn’t have a mom, dad,” he said. “I didn’t have nobody I could really lean on for advice, help, anything. I had nobody.”
Miles described living “house to house” during his first few years of high school. He then bounced among high schools, being thrown out of three of them, including well-known prep schools that specialize in handling promising athletes — Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and the Patterson School in North Carolina.
A person with direct knowledge of Miles’s time at the Patterson School said that Nochimson arranged for someone to fly to North Carolina to take the college entrance exam for Miles. The score from that test was not validated. Miles said he took the SAT twice with help, but declined to get into specifics, other than saying that he didn’t do all of his own work. The Patterson School has since closed.
“I had people helping, I mean I had somebody read over the questions, and basically in so many ways helped me swindle my answers down,” Miles said.
Miles said he ultimately came to thrive briefly at Cornerstone Christian High School in Texas, where he said the classes were online. But he said that he left because Calhoun feared that the coaching staff there or his host family would steer him to either Baylor University or U.C.L.A. He later spent a month at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts, but said he did not attend class.
Miles said he gets pangs of regret when he hears Charles Barkley or Dick Vitale talk about Walker, his former roommate, who was a much less heralded recruit than Miles.
“My stomach shakes every time because that could be me,” he said. “I was right there.”
Instead, he is out of basketball, without an agent and trying to find a career. He said he would tell any young basketball player to avoid taking extra benefits and to sacrifice in the short term.
“I’m definitely going to tell my kids to do it the right way,” he said of his two sons. “You know, because you don’t want to ever go through what Daddy went through. This is just something to learn from, grow from for real. And this is something that should never happen again.”